High-Functioning Teachers Needed

Here’s a conversation I had yesterday with a stranger:

“We’ve noticed your son walking around here today.”

“Okay” I said.

“He’s good-looking.”

“Yes, he is.”

“Say, is he reading that book?”

“Yes, he is.”

“So, he’s high-functioning?”

“Listen, I am willing to take time out of my day to explain something to you.”

Genuinely pleased she said: “Thank you!”

That was easier than I thought.

“Okay, listen up, “high-function” and “low-function” is crap. That’s something The Man– you look old enough to remember The Man, am I correct?”

She nodded: “Yes.”

“Okay, so, The Man, says we’re not going to invest our time in teaching certain people so we will come up with some crappy way to absolve ourselves and blame the student. Hence: high or low functioning.”

“I know just what you’re talking about!” she exclaimed.

Her enthusiastic response embolden me. It might be hard to believe but I wasn’t done being bold.

“We home-school because in school he was the recipient of mostly low-functioning teachers, aides and school administrators. I’m a high-functioning teacher so I teach reading and everything else.”

“It’s the System that’s low-functioning!,”she said.

“There you go!”

“We have one of him in our family, a niece.”

“One of him?” I asked, “You mean someone who is super good-looking?”

“No one ever taught her to read” she said, “And now she’s 32 years-old and pretends to read the Bible at church.”

“That’s awful. That’s a crying shame.”

“Her mother, my sister-in-law, is a teacher.”

“It’s not too late for her to learn to read” I offered, “There are people who can’t read at all ages. Just think of her as a person who can’t read– like any person.”

“We need more high-functioning teachers” she said resignedly.

I left thinking her niece would never be taught more than she knows right now.


8 thoughts on “High-Functioning Teachers Needed

    • I just had this feeling she was asking me something important to her and I guess she was. I don’t know if I am model teacher but I am a Bossy Boots:)

  1. Look for a Montessori school or Montessori-trained teachers! Maria Montessori was a physician first, then a teacher, and developed her methods and didactic materials from her unbiased and careful observations of children and adults. The heart of her theory is that ALL leaning poroceeds from the concrete to the abstract, and ALL learning begins with the basic senses, AND that the pattern is consistent across all races, colors, cultures, but the pace of progression through the stages of learning can vary individually. I was so fortunate to have been Montessori-trained first, before entering the typical teacher-credentialling system, and that I had the example of several other Montessori teachers to follow. To decide that an individual cannot learn and then deprive that person of the opportunities to learn is a crime against their humanity. I have worked with 60-year-olds with learning disabilities, as well as the younger group we see in public schools. Like you, I pray that someone realizes that a 32-yr-old still has the desire and ability to LEARN, and that the engagement will enhance the lives of both learner and teacher.

    • Thank you for this! I will read more on Montessori– our son is on his own progression as are we all. I love that view of learning. I love that you have taught people at 60 with learning disabilities. You sound like a gentle and loving teacher. Thank you, Kwp

  2. I just read your NYTimes article about homeschooling your son, and I loved it. I’m a special ed master’s student, and work at a school for kids with learning differences. I have seen firsthand that the teacher’s expectations make all the difference. I’m sorry you had such a rotten experience in public school, but hopefully your writing will encourage some people to do better to teach ALL children!

    I’m curious about your son’s reading now. My favorite part of teaching is teaching reading… especially to people who “can’t” learn to read. They can!

    Thanks for your writing. :)

    • Sorry for delay! You sound like a good teacher– I know there are many:) Thorin is reading level 2 and 3 books. He makes great strides during the year. I would love any thoughts you have! Best, Kwp

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